Miami v. Florida State… Labor Day Preview

Miami and Florida State time, again. The 54th meeting between these Sunshine State foes, the Canes leading the series 30-23.

UM owned the early part of the decade, posting six straight wins. FSU rallied back the past few years, winning three of the last four – two Labor Day snoozers and last year’s barn burner. As for what’s in store this year, it’s anybody’s guess.

Miami and Florida State are oft a mirror image of each other. Two decades ago, both programs atop their game and atop the college football world. The Noles then owned the late 90s while the Canes were back in top the early 00s. Since then, both have been treading water – hanging around the middle with an occasional average or sub par season. The Decade of Dominance is on hiatus for both, though someone is primed to take a step forward on Monday night.

The Noles grabbed a No. 18 preseason ranking, while the Canes are wallowing in ‘other receiving votes’ category.

FSU went 9-4 and UM went 7-6 in 2008. Had Miami pulled out last year’s back and forth affair, both teams would’ve had matching 8-5 seasons. The Canes recruited better the past two seasons and return more talent at the skills positions. The Noles are paper thin at wideout, have to replace a starting tailback and have a ton of holes on defense – yet they’re the ones in the top 20 and are picked to win the ACC.

Another phantom preseason ranking thanks to The Bowden Effect? Sure sounds like it. How else can you explain a fifteen spot swing in the polls when both teams are evenly matched at so many positons?

QUARTERBACK: Christian Ponder can play the ‘experience card’ on Jacory Harris. One full year at starter and had some solid games – most notably against Miami – 303 total yards (159 passing, 144 rushing). Harris had nine total attempts against Florida State last season and was a non-factor.

What Ponder holds over Harris experience-wise, Harris has the advantage regarding surrounding talent – wideouts, running backs and offensive coordinator. Jimbo Fisher will have the Noles ready, but Mark Whipple is unknown in this rivalry; Florida State simply can’t plan for that the Canes will throw at them Monday night. Mickey Andrews will eventually adjust, but if Whipple and Harris execute, things could get interesting quickly.

RUNNING BACK: Jermaine Thomas will replace Antone Smith and is a solid back… but he doesn’t get the nod over a Javarris James and Graig Cooper due for Miami. Not early in the season when both are healthy.

James shed weight and gained speed this off season while Cooper added weight to his small frame and won’t have to shoulder the load he did in ’08. Fresh legs early in the season and should either falter, freshmen Mike James and Lamar Miller are on deck – as are Lee Chambers and Damien Berry. Depth has returned at running back for The U.

Miami has a distinct edge at running back and if the Canes run the ball well Monday night, you have to like their overall chances in Tallahassee.

WIDE RECEIVER: Florida State lost Greg Carr and Preston Parker. Miami returns a slew of sophomores coming off of strong freshmen seasons. LaRon Byrd. Aldarius Johnson. Travis Benjamin. The Canes also expect junior Leonard Hankerson to finally show what he can do. Same to be said for redshirt freshmen Tommy Streeter and Kendal Thompkins.

Bert Reed and Rod Owens return for the Noles. Owens and Richard Goodman are slated to start. Capable receivers, but not as deep or with as much variety as the Canes. Miami has the Andre Johnson-esque bigger receiver and the small, shifty Santana Moss-like wide out as well. Harris has a lot as his disposal and the different style receivers give Whipple a slew of weapons and packages.

OFFENSIVE LINE: No contest here, with Florida State holding a distinct edge. A young, solid line while Miami fields a mismatched crew – a few veterans, including Jason Fox, Matt Pipho and AJ Trump… a first-time starter in sophomore Harland Gunn, freshmen pushing for playing time – Ben Jones and Brandon Washington. The fiery Orlando Franklin.

Miami’s line remains an enigma, but that could change quickly based on The Whipple Factor. How much of the lines suspect play could be blamed on Patrick Nix and some predictable formations. With a little innovation, Whipple’s calls can play to this line’s strength.

The Noles still get the edge, but don’t be surprised of Miami’s line played relatively well on Monday night.

TIGHT END: Caz Piurowski had eight receptions last year. Miami’s Dedrick Epps reeled in 22 – more than Piurowski has in his three-year career. If healthy, Epps not only gets the nod – but so do the Canes for simply incorporating the tight end into their offense. The Noles have neglected this for years, though fans are quietly claiming that Fisher will change that this year.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Miami has the edge, or at least had it prior to some recent injuries to the line – Eric Moncur (hernia) and Adwale Ojomo (broken jaw). Still, some solid talent returns. Allen Bailey. Marcus Forston. Marcus Robinson. John Holmes. Joe Joseph. The Canes will also see newbies Oliver Vernon, Andrew Smith and Dyron Dye worked into the mix, picking up for the injured linemen.

LINEBACKER: Both Miami and Florida State have some potential and depth. The Canes’ Sean Spence is your biggest name linebacker in the game and the Noles return Dakoda Watson, but neither squad is fielding a trio of superstars as they have years past.

SECONDARY: Florida State has more depth and experience, most notably Patrick Robinson. Miami has more youth and potential. The Canes took a hit with Ryan Hill and Vaughn Telemaque sidelined. That said, senior Randy Phillips is back, JoJo Nicolas earned the start and Chavez Grant will hold down the cornerback spot with Brandon Harris and Demarcus VanDyke.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Miami’s Matt Bosher can kick, Benjamin can return and Florida State doesn’t have field goal specialist Graham Gano kicking anymore. Should be interesting.

All that thrown out there, this is Miami and Florida State. Stats go out the window when these two teams play. Expect the unexpected. Grit and determination will outweigh what you’d think would be logic. You can throw it all out the window when these two meet.

At day’s end, this is an evenly matched game and as a Miami enthusiast I believe the difference is Whipple’s offense. J-12 has the weapons and finally has a coordinator who can supply him with the know-how. The Canes should move the ball and defensively Miami knows the need to stop the run, after last year’s onslaught.

The Call: Miami 24, Florida State 17



6 thoughts on “Miami v. Florida State… Labor Day Preview

  1. Awesome game, but way too much offense for a Miami FSU game.

    The D needs to get tighter. They played hard and hit hard, but every time a FSU reciever caught a ball there wasn't a Cane within 5 yards.

    Great Effort Great Win Go Canes

  2. Is that the DeGeneration X kid in the lower left corner of the Mt. Failmore pic??

    That guy's my hero.

  3. Allen Bailey showed out against florida state. He is faster this season. Can't wait to see how his football career turns out. Goooooo Canes

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